Happy Wednesday! How is everyone’s week going so far? Mine is off to a great start—the weather has cooled down a bit from that oppressive heatwave we were having, and last night I saw Taylor Swift at FedEx Field. The last time I saw her in concert was back in 2009, and she was solely a country music artist then—oh, how times have changed.
The idea for today’s post came a few months ago when I was Instagram DM-ing with a reader about “hidden gems” in Arlington—restaurants that are great, but that are either off the beaten path a bit or are often left off the list when picking a happy hour spot. Obviously this list is a bit subjective—you might live a block from one of these places and consider yourself a regular there, whereas I only pop in every now and then. That being said, I thought I’d share five hidden gems in case you’re local and looking for a new place to try this weekend.
PS—I’m still working on my full Arlington Guide. I just need to get out and about and take some pictures to accompany the text because, unsurprisingly, I don’t typically lug my DSLR around with me in my daily life like I do on vacation. That post is definitely high on my priority list, so you can expect it before the end of the summer.
PPS—I signed a lease in Dupont Circle (!) so I am moving across the river come September, which means I really need to hustle on pulling together all my Arlington content for y’all. More on this soon!
OBY LEE /
The picture above was taken at a happy hour I had at Oby Lee recently with my friend Kate. We became instant fans of this place—and for good reason. Located right off 10th Street North in Clarendon, it’s pretty central to everything, but since it’s a bit further from the Metro, it was easy for us to grab a seat on their patio that’s adorned with palm plants. (This place really gets me.) Branded as a creperie winery, Oby Lee has all sorts of crepes, both sweet and savory, a wine fountain that’s serve-yourself, and the best cheese board in town—and at just $16, it’s a steal.
El Paso Cafe is within walking distance of my apartment, and I actually found out about it the good old fashioned way—via a flyer under my door. Tex Mex within walking distance? Sign me up. I first visited back in December and loved it from first visit. They serves up great margaritas and fajitas, often accompanied with music from a mariachi band. I’ve since been back several times, and have never had a bad experience here. If you go to El Paso Cafe, just know this is not a fancy modern Mexican place—it’s literally in a strip mall next to a Popeye’s—but it’s a nice change of place compared to the normal Arlington scene. When you walk in, be sure to look straight ahead and check out their little shrine to George W. Bush. He visited a few days after 9/11, and they have framed pictures from his visit as well as the chair he sat in mounted to the wall.
I discovered Guajillo when I was living in Courthouse. I’d probably consider it a step up from El Paso Cafe in terms of decor / ambiance, but it’s still a great no-frills Mexican place. The homemade salsa here is amazing, and their margs are strong. If you haven’t picked up on this yet, I typically order fajitas at Mexican restaurants and the ones here are great—less greasy than most. I do dock them a point or two though because they charge you extra for cheese and sour cream. Guajillo is on the smaller side, so it does get busy on weekend nights, but it’s worth the wait!
One of my favorite date night with friends over the years has been to pop into the Italian Store and grab sandwiches, pizzas, or calzones to-go. In addition to their deli, there’s a whole marketplace of Italian speciality goods—cheeses, wines, boxed and homemade pastas, sauces, meats—that really makes me wish I cooked more. This shop is family-owned, and they recently opened their second location. It’s probably one of the places I’ll miss most in Arlington!
Pupatella is within walking distance of my office, so I was introduced to this Neapoltian-style pizza place early on in my Arlington days. It’s one of the only pizza places in the United States that has obtained the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association certification, which verifies that the pizza is made according to the 200-year-old Neapolitan technique—only wood-fired ovens are permitted; the dough is made of only four ingredients: Italian flour, sea salt, fresh yeast, and water. Their pizzas are amazing, and they also have the best sangria. This place is pretty no-frills—it’s counter service, with some seating at the restaurant if you want to hang around—but the food is great and it’s definitely worth a stop on your DC-area restaurant tour.
Locals—I’d love to know if you have any favorite hidden gems in Arlington or DC. I am always looking for new places to try and keep a running list on my phone of recommendations!